The other day—nearly two weeks ago to be exact—former president Bakili Muluzi took time from his not-so busy schedule to offer unsolicited advice to President Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) administration.
Desperate to be relevant and trying to cast himself as an elder statesman, as he obviously positions himself to campaign for his son Atupele who is running for president on a United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket, Muluzi tipped the bungling Mrs. Banda on how to manage public expenditure in the face the cashgate scandal.
Cashgate is said to have uprooted more than K20 billion within a period of six months—most of it between May and September 2013.
The rampant thieving also lifted out of Capital Hill more than K90 billion between 2009 and 2012 (I know the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] have never forgiven me for exposing that fact).
Now, I appreciate that cashgate is very fashionable fodder these days, especially among politicians.
I am also aware that Mrs. Banda may be in need of advice on how to move forward after the scam has not only angered taxpayers, but also donor capitals that, as a consequence, have delayed disbursement of general budget support, thereby enlarging the cashgate drilled hole in the 2013/14 financial basket.
I mean Muluzi has no moral authority to talk about curtailing presidential travel—as good advice as this may be—when he has been the role model of his successors when it comes to unproductive local and external gallivanting.
Is it not the same Muluzi who brazenly told critics of his endless travels that sindimayenda pakhomo panu, a mantra that presidencies that followed his have been chanting?
In 2000, Atcheya lost the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-supported Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)—an economic package equivalent to the now off-rail Extended Credit Facility (ECF)—just a few months after securing it.
In fact, Muluzi never completed a programme with the Bretton Woods institution ostensibly because of too much fraud and corruption in his government, terrible economic and political governance and a chronic aversion to reforms.
When most donors criticised him and pulled out their budget support due to his administration’s endless scandals, he railed against the development partners, challenging that “Malawi would rather be poor while looking up than be rich with aid while looking down” or something to that senseless effect.
After the aid freeze, did the man recalibrate his spending appetite as well as his diplomatic and public messaging?
Nope. Muluzi went right ahead spending extravagantly as if everything was normal, piling up huge budget deficits in the process, borrowing heavily on the domestic market thereby crowding out the private sector; bought things with money Capital Hill never had, which saw him leaving government with arrears in excess of K10 billion as he retired in 2004 after unsuccessfully trying to change the constitution with the objective of remaining in power indefinitely.
The end result of Muluzi’s uncontrollable expenditure and governance flaws was that inflation jerked upwards of 40 percent, interest rates went to the north of 60 and most of the companies that were the pride of Malawi’s manufacturing sector crumpled under the weight of the Muluzi incompetence, unbridled arrogance and his I don’t give-a-damn attitude towards anything to do with sound policy making, governance and public opinion.
With all these spectacular failures, where does Muluzi draw the authority to lecture anyone about public finance management, as well meaning as this maybe?
It is very convenient that Atcheya appears to have found his moral and leadership compass more than a decade after leaving the presidency and living in extravagant comfort at his sprawling BCA Hill mansion as he flies in and out of the country for medical attention paid by the same taxpayer he always splashed derogatory words at. As for cashgate, Muluzi has a bagful of his own. Make no mistake, the K187 million scam was cashgate but without the Ifmis assist just as is his own case involving diversion of K1.6 billion meant for Malawians from foreign governments and agencies. That case is still in the High Court awaiting conclusion. Or does Muluzi still think that AMalawi timayiwala msanga?
For Muluzi to start talking today like some wise former leader with the interest of the country at heart is an insult to our intellect, a travesty to our tortured past under his leadership and a discouragement to those who may want to provide credible advice to the Banda administration because, these potential advice givers may say, ndi AMuluzi omwe? Nde malangizo alowa Tchayinatu; hence, may not want to be ‘also-advisors’.
On this note, let me wish all my dear Chaff followers a happy and prosperous 2014. I hope you, like some folks in the Joyce Banda administration, will experience your own ‘breakthroughs’ in the New Year.